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Wire Festival

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Benthos 360

Virginia Tech

“Benthos 360” is an immersive 360° documentary experience about the conservation of one of the most endangered animals on Planet Earth: the freshwater mussel. Mussels play a critical role in river and stream ecosystems around the globe, and yet they face urgent, existential threats. The crisis lies not just in some faraway region, but also right here in our backyard. Our exhibit transports you beneath Appalachia’s Clinch River – a Ground Zero for the world’s freshwater mussel extinction – where you’ll follow a restoration biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on his life’s mission to repopulate these endangered animals at the river’s bed (a.k.a. the “Benthic Zone”).

Why is this important? A recent study* suggests that Earth could lose a third of all animal and plant species within our lifetimes. Consequently, public awareness of efforts to conserve endangered fauna and flora is more urgent than ever. Popular animals tend to attract the most support, but oftentimes we hear the least about those species at greatest risk. The mussels, snails, and salamanders that inhabit the nooks and crevices of Appalachian stream bottoms are examples of biota facing great risk of extinction while hidden from public view. As they continue to struggle for survival, many of these organisms exist only in the memories of adults who played and fished in these streams as children. Unfortunately, future generations may have no memory of them at all. While opportunities to experience these endangered species and their natural environments first-hand are rare, immersive technologies can offer new ways of sharing these creatures and their worlds more broadly than ever before. We’re exploring how immersive technology can help improve public awareness of imperiled species and how individuals and communities can support efforts to save them.

In addition to the immersive 360° documentary experience, the exhibit will include the opportunity to connect in person with members of the scientific conservation and visual storytelling teams…Come dive with us and explore the vibrant yet imperiled underwater world of rivers, streams, and mussels in a whole new light.

* https://www.pnas.org/content/117/8/4211


  • Justin Perkinson
  • Tanner Upthegrove
  • Jess Jones
  • Molly Meador
  • Matthew Hull